In Virginia, driving without driver’s license is a very common crime (Va. Code §46.2-300), in part because Virginia law currently doesn’t allow undocumented immigrants to get a valid driver’s license.  Also, if a person moves to Virginia from another state or country and doesn’t get his driver’s license within 60 days of moving here, he could be charged with driving without a valid license.

What do they have to prove?

Virginia Code  §46.2-300 reads:

No person, except those expressly exempted in §§ 46.2-303 through 46.2-308, shall drive any motor vehicle on any highway in the Commonwealth until such person has applied for a driver’s license, as provided in this article, satisfactorily passed the examination required by § 46.2-325, and obtained a driver’s license, nor unless the license is valid.
A violation of this section is a Class 2 misdemeanor. A second or subsequent violation of this section is a Class 1 misdemeanor.
Upon conviction under this section, the court may suspend the person’s privilege to drive for a period not to exceed 90 days.

The Commonwealth must prove the offender was 1) driving; 2) on a highway; and 3) without ever having a license issued OR an with an expired driver’s license, OR an with an invalid license.

60 Day Requirement: Out-of-state drivers and new Virginia residents are often affected by this law because out-of-state driver’s licenses are only valid in Virginia for 60 days after a person becomes a resident of Virginia. If you have been a resident of Virginia for more than 60 days and drive without getting a Virginia license, you can be charged with Driving without a Valid License.  Remember, being a resident is not necessarily the same as living in Virginia (see exemptions below).

Exemptions

There are certain exemptions to the requirements of Va. Code §46.2-300.  Those on active duty in the military and their families, non-Virginia residents, new Virginia residents, and those operating certain farm or construction machinery are exempt from the requirements of obtaining valid Virginia driver’s license.

  • Military: Va. Code 46.2-306 allows anyone on active duty in the armed services of the United States, their spouses, and dependents at least 16 years old to drive in Virginia with a valid driver’s license from another state or country.  Additionally, anyone in the armed services driving an official motor vehicle is exempt from the requirements of obtaining a Virginia driver’s license (Va. Code §46.2-305).
  • Non-Virginia Resident: Va. Code 46.2-307 allows any non-resident with a valid license from another state or country to drive in Virginia.
  • New Virginia Residents: Va. Code 46.2-308 allows new Virginia residents to drive for up to 60 days before obtaining a Virginia driver’s license.  This statute applies so long as the driver has a valid license from his prior state of residence.
  • Farm and Construction Machinery:  Code §46.2-303 allows the operation of road machinery for maintenance and construction purposes under the supervision and control of the Department of Transportation without a valid Virginia driver’s license.  Additionally, farm tractors, farm machinery and farm vehicles can be operated without a valid Virginia driver’s license if the machine is being temporarily drawn, moved or propelled on the highways.

Penalties

Driving without a valid operator’s license is a Class 2 misdemeanor, punishable up to 6 months in jail, a fine up to $1000, and driver’s license suspension up to 90 days.  The DMV will also add 3 demerit points to the offender’s Virginia driving record.  A second or subsequent conviction is a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable up to  one year in jail, a fine up to $2500, 3 DMV demerit points, and driver’s license suspension up to 90 days.  Remember, even if a person has never been licensed, the court can still suspend their right or privilege to obtain a license.

Collateral Consequences

Beyond the immediate penalties associated with a conviction for driving without a valid driver’s license other collateral consequences are also at play.  For one, your insurance premiums are likely to increase if convicted.  Further, your education or employment opportunities may be limited due to the criminal conviction.  If you are subject to a background check for employment, security clearance, or immigration, the reckless driving conviction could affect your future.

If you ever get charged with driving without a valid license in Virginia contact a Virginia traffic defense attorney. TATE BYWATER offers an initial free consultation to discuss your case.  We will work with you to obtain the best possible outcome.  We’re here to help!